RSS
In praise of retouching
Instead of going ballistic over airbushed celebrity photos, says Amanda Fortini in New York, we should appreciate them as beautiful lies
Do young girls know the images of models in fashion magazines have been retouched and edited?
Do young girls know the images of models in fashion magazines have been retouched and edited?
Corbis

"Is anyone else weary of the media's hunt for retouched images to ridicule?" asks Amanda Fortini at New York magazine. Hardly a week goes by when some blogger isn't ranting about the latest Photoshop outrage. Was the voluptuous Jessica Simpson "airbrushed to slimness on the September cover of Lucky"? Did Katy Perry get "digital liposuction at the hands of Rolling Stone?" The complaint is always that the "retouched photos set an unrealistic bar for suggestible young girls." But — come on — young women know the images in fashion magazines are "feats of makeup and lighting and camera angles, even without retouching." Like pure illustrations, they aren't meant to reflect reality, but "to exaggerate, accentuate, and improve upon their subjects — basically, to lie." Here, an excerpt:

Seen and appreciated for what they are, magazine images might gain in artistic vibrancy what they lose in everyday authority. The truth is that most retouched photos fail as aesthetic objects, not because they’re deceptive, but because they’re timid, feeble, and inhibited... When an apparently hipless Demi Moore graced the cover of W last year, readers blanched...

So let’s get real ourselves, as viewers. Look around. We know perfectly well what women look like... Let’s cope with our image-drenched environment (by some counts, 3,000 ads accost us every day) by teaching young women (and men) to cultivate the same critical skills we urge them to exercise when reading, a more complex task than pointing gleeful fingers at graphic misdemeanors. The problem isn’t altered photographs; it’s our failure to alter our expectations of them.

Read the full article in New York magazine.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week